The Golden Globes have come and gone… yawn. The Grammys have had their day… la dee dah. The Oscars are still waiting in the wings because… well, everything about the Academy Awards stretches on too long. Pretenders, all of them. We all know where the real awards action is at this time of year:
The second annual Aggie Awards from Adventure Gamers!
Yes, back by popular demand, we’re once again preparing to honour the top adventures of 2009. Think that’s easy to do in a little niche genre like ours? It might seem that way, until you realize that more than seventy games were eligible (though some only in applicable categories).
So what games will take home the hardware? It’s too early to say, but we can tell you the winners will come from the deserving nominee finalists listed below. The victors will be announced soon, so stay tuned for the envelope opening over the course of three days, from February 17-19th.
Don’t trust us to make the right choice? Fear not, as a “Reader’s Choice” poll will also be posted shortly, giving you the opportunity to vote for your favourites. Those will be tallied up as well, and announced along with the official Aggie winners.
For a list of all games eligible this year, along with a few basic rules and regulations used in determining the selections, scroll down past the nominations. But without any further ado, ladies and gentlemen… we give you the nominations for the 2009 Aggies. (Games listed in alphabetical order.)
One of the core components of any adventure, the game’s narrative must engage the player’s interest and imagination. Entertaining in its own right, a good story also immerses the player in a believable game world and serves as motivation to overcome the challenges presented. While often accompanied by quality writing, the plot is a distinct feature that may or may not be ably supported by the actual dialogue.
Best Writing – Comedy
Arguably the hardest genre to write well, comedy done right has the ability both to humour and uplift, finding amusement in the ordinary and laughter in the unexpected. Often dismissed for not being “serious writing” (oh, the irony!), comedy has long been a beloved genre staple and deserves appropriate recognition.
Best Writing – Drama
If comedy lifts the soul, then drama explores and challenges the soul. Though sometimes misrepresented as dry and boring or overly theatrical, a gripping drama simply engages players on a deeper emotional level. Quality writing is essential in maintaining the player’s connection to the characters, game world, and the story unfolding.
Puzzles are an integral aspect of adventure gameplay, but not the only one. Good pacing, rich exploration, and variety of activities are all factors in player enjoyment as well, all suitably integrated into the storyline. The best games seek the right balance of these elements for the most rewarding gameplay experience.
A somewhat ambiguous category meant to highlight any unusual, distinctive element. A creative concept can run the gamut from story premise to game mechanics, from stylistic choice to technical innovation. It doesn’t even need to have been successfully implemented, as it’s the idea itself that deserves the acknowledgement in a genre renowned for its conservative approach.
Adventures can transport us to memorable places we’ve never been before, including those we never even imagined. Or perhaps to locales we’ve virtually visited already, but never quite like this, making them feel fresh and new and awe-inspiring all over again. This category can refer to an overall game world or even a single environment in a given game so long as it’s a relevant location.
Best Graphic Design
If a picture is worth a thousand words, this category speaks volumes. Regardless of style, this award recognizes games that are not only visually attractive but stylistically distinctive. One look at a screenshot should elicit a “Wow!” followed by “Hey, that’s from…!” Includes both game world and character design, but not cinematics.
From “bustling” city streets that look deserted to clouds that never move, animation is rarely a genre strong suit, often the victim of budget constraints. But richly animated adventures add so much to player immersion that any game that goes the extra mile in this area is deserving of appreciation. This category includes in-game character and ambient animations, plus cinematic cutscenes.
As a supporting element playing in the background, often a game’s soundtrack is noticeable only when it becomes intrusive, but a strong score and attention to pacing can add so much to a game’s ambience. A catchy theme song can likewise make game music memorable, and an in-game musical number even moreso. Whatever its particular strengths, the rare game that excels musically deserves its accolades.
Best Voice Acting
Often under-valued by publishers but never by gamers, quality voice acting can enhance the player’s investment in characters as surely as poor acting can ruin it. With so much international localization, voiceovers can be difficult to skillfully oversee, but any game benefits greatly from proper direction and believable acting. This category refers to the overall quality of vocal roles in a game, not to individual characters.
Best Sound Design
As with music, sound effects are frequently given short shrift in adventures, but effective use of audio adds a vital layer of moody ambience. You may not be able to put your finger on the reason, but some games make you feel like you’re really there, and often it's the atmospheric sounds that have drawn you in subconsciously.